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Design and Innovation for Sustainability MDes/PgDip/PgCert


Design and Innovation for Sustainability Masthead

The Design and Innovation for Sustainability course aims to address the engagement of design-led thinking with the business and social agenda for sustainable development. It is about rethinking and re engaging existing paradigms to stimulate new futures. Uniquely it does this through a focus on the multiple perspectives of Design, Management, Engineering and Science and their engagement with innovation and sustainability.

Students are asked to pose questions in relation to the global context of design, consumption & production. Sustainable solutions, interventions in response to these issues are then explored and interrogated.

Students are introduced to ecodesign tools, design-led thinking tools and methods of developing project and programme strategies. This equips students with requisite technical knowledge and skills to achieve more sustainable interventions. This course encourages design-led thinking and innovation through first-hand experiences from business, engineering and design perspectives. This heightened awareness of other disciplines provides students with a platform to apply design thinking across disciplinary boundaries in industry.

  • Course overview

    The course comprises eight one-week assessed modules, a group project and an individual project.  

  • Group project

    The group project provides students with the opportunity to take responsibility for a consultancy-type project, while working under academic supervision. Success is dependent on the integration of various activities and working within agreed objectives, deadlines and budgets. It addresses a real-life challenge in Design and Innovation and develops and refines students’ engagement with sustainability through the development of organisational, management and teamwork skills. For part-time students, a negotiated individual project usually replaces the group project.

    The dissertation project (for part-time students) has similar goals to the group project without the specific focus on group working.

    Industrially orientated, our team projects have support from external organisations. These include: 3M Health Care, ABSL Space Products, APROSYS, Airbus, Aston Martin, BAE Systems, BT, Chubb Security, Cranfield Impact Centre, DSGi, Ford Motor Company, GEC, GlaxoSmithKline, Hallmark Cards UK, IBM, Jaguar, Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey & Company, Motorola, Pfizer, Philips, Rolls-Royce and Unilever. As a result of external engagement Cranfield students enjoy a higher degree of success when it comes to securing employment. Prospective employers value the student experience where team working to find solutions to industrially based problems are concerned.

    See our Manufacturing Group Projects from 2012/2013

    See our Manufacturing Group Projects from 2013/2014

    Watch video: Paul Ewers, Visteon Engineering Services, talks about his involvement in the Manufacturing Group Project at Cranfield University.

    Watch video: Manufacturing MSc students talk about their experience of the Manufacturing Group Projects at Cranfield University. 

  • Individual project

    The individual project provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to carry out independent research, think and work in an original way, contribute to knowledge and overcome genuine problems in Design and Innovation for Sustainability. Many of the projects are supported by external organisations.

  • Modules

    The course comprises eight one-week assessed modules, a group project and an individual project


    • Principles of Sustainability
      Module LeaderDr Paul Burgess - Senior Lecturer

      Sustainability is concerned with how society and businesses can best meet social and economic development objectives without compromising the future viability of natural and human systems. The 'Ecosystem service framework', popularised by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, provides one method by which society can categorise the different benefits we obtain from processes such as energy transfer, climate regulation, soil formation, and carbon, water and nutrient cycling. The approach also emphasises the importance of biodiversity and the complexity of ecological feedback loops. The module also examines how economics, legislation and stakeholder engagement can help society and businesses make sustainable decisions. Methods for applying sustainability principles and the ecosystem service approach are illustrated through case studies.  

      • Definitions and models of sustainability, and the role of stability, resistance and resilience
      • Human well-being and ecosystem services; the development of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the UK National Ecosystem Assessment
      • Ecosystem processes and services: energy transfer; climate; geomorphology and soil formation; carbon, nutrient and oxygen cycles; water supply and quality; the link between processes and services
      • The role of biodiversity, population regulation and dampening and amplifying feedback loops; the Gaia hypothesis
      • Approaches to address complex processes such as the role of economics, legislation and stakeholder engagement.  Methods for identifying appropriate stakeholders
      • Case studies of the application of the framework in practice: renewable energy, management of wetlands, and management of montane forests in Tanzania.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

      • Critique the concept of sustainability
      • Explain the development and use of the Ecosystem Service Approach in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
      • Explain how human well-being depends on ecosystem processes and services
      • Explain the key ecosystem processes of energy transfer, climate regulation, soil formation, and carbon, oxygen, nutrient and water cycling
      • Critique the role of biodiversity, population levels and feedback loops in ecosystem service provision
      • Explain methods for describing sustainability including stability, resistance, and resilience
      • Explain how economics, legislation and stakeholder engagement can be used to help optimise resource use and allocation
      • Explain how the ecosystem service approach can be applied in practice.
    • Consumer Trends for Design and Innovation for Sustainability

      This module introduces the student to new methods for observing and analysing tangible and intangible elements of behaviours, expectations, and associations of customer groups. It intends to provide an insight into how developing a deep understanding of user attitudes and behaviour enables organisations to connect to what
      is ultimately important to consumers and importantly can help them to design solutions with a more sustainable outcome in function and use.

      • Market research methods; market sensing; trend analysis; empathic design
      • Lifestyle Analysis; personal cultures; group lifestyle cultures; lifestyles factor abstraction; observation techniques
      • Co-design
      • Data Gathering and Analysis Techniques; life observation; activity Simulation methods; developing prototypes; applying questionnaires
      • Setting up and carrying out a Customer Lifestyle Observation Exercise.
      Intended Learning Outcomes
      • On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:
      • Develop a knowledge and understanding of new and established deep insight methods in studying user
      • Develop the ability to select and apply appropriate research methods to explore customer needs and desires
      • Understand and interpret data obtained and identify innovation drivers for end-consumers
      • Foster and understanding and knowledge of how to apply research information to applications within the
        commercial environment
      • Demonstrate a knowledge of new and established deep methods in studying user behaviour
      • Determine appropriate research methods to explore customer needs and desires
      • Interpret data obtained and identify innovation drivers for sustainability
      • Apply research information to applications within the commercial environment.
    • Design and Brand Management

      The aim of this module is to introduce the student to the concepts and techniques involved in communication and branding as a strategic part of company planning and activity. To introduce some psychologies associated with perception. To make the student aware of the methods by which a company identifies itself outwardly, consideration of audiences, the techniques employed in communication, and the methods adopted within companies to achieve agreed goals in these areas.

      • Visual communication interpretation
      • Cultures of imagery
      • Graphic production methods
      • Theoretical and practical models of visual research 
      • Research methodologies in Graphic Design
      • Thematic approaches to problem solving
      • Relationships between audience and message 
      • Principles of branding and association
      • Corporate identity
      • Brand stakeholders
      • Brand communication methods
      • External communication within corporate structures
      • Stakeholders 
      • Measurement of success.

      This module will involve teaching input from University of the Arts London staff.

      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

      • Effectively apply visual messages to meet commercial objectives
      • Determine and communicate value systems relevant to corporate communication
      • Make judgements within expressions of contemporary communication media
      • Organise creation of visual communications towards branding objectives.
    • Creative Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
      Module LeadersProfessor Andrew Burke - Professor of Entrepreuneurship, Dr Stephanie Hussels - Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship

      The aim of this course is to promote productive and self-sustaining entrepreneurship. It provides students with a rigorous grounding in business analysis of entrepreneurship in order to prepare them for the risky, uncertain and challenging environment for new business ventures. It also requires students to immerse themselves in the real-life experience of launching new ventures. Therefore, students are required to either start their own business or contribute to the development of another venture while on the course.  

      • Entrepreneurial risk, performance and environment
      • Business planning techniques and their application in entrepreneurial ventures
      • Venture strategy in dynamic markets
      • Start-up and resources to exploit a profit opportunity
      • The evolution of the venture and managing growth
      • Protecting and securing intellectual capital: IPR and antitrust law
      • Financial management for new ventures: financing a start-up
      • The entrepreneurial financing process: buying and selling a venture.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

      • Understand the key stages and challenges involved in identifying opportunities and strategies for business start-ups
      • Manage and finance the early stages of new venture development and growth
      • Evaluate, research, write, and present business plans using their knowledge of the entrepreneurial process.
    • Managing Innovation and New Product Development
      Module LeadersProfessor Keith Goffin - Professor of Innovation and New Product Development, Dr David Baxter - Lecturer in Innovation

      Managing innovation is a complex challenge: this course will provide a framework to help managers perceive the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation and choose the appropriate means of improving performance.

      • Introduction: elective content, style of teaching and learning; expectations of students and faculty; project teams; course assessment; reading; etc
      • Understanding Innovation: the need for innovation in the service, manufacturing, public and other sectors
      • Creating Customer-focused Ideas: understanding customers’ hidden needs through enhanced methods for market research
      • ‘Auditing Innovation Performance’: determining how innovative an organization is, in terms of not only its output of new products and services but also its internal processes
      • Prioritisation: Methods for assessing the technical, market and financial risks of innovation projects
      • Implementation and new product development: how to define and quickly implement concepts for new products, services and processes
      • People and Organisation: building a culture of innovation
      • Developing an Innovation Strategy
      • Boosting Innovation Performance.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

      • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the nature of innovation – identified by Michael Porter as one of the two most important business processes (with marketing) – and be able to identify the relevance and potential for innovation within an organisation and/or network
      • Critically evaluate appropriate (quantitative and qualitative) data on the performance of an organisation and generate ideas for boosting innovation performance
      • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the key tools and techniques for managing innovation, know where to find information on leading edge approaches, and have the ability to critically evaluate, select and systematically apply these in actual business situations
      • Demonstrate fundamental understanding of the people issues when applying and managing innovation, including where there can be political, cognitive and other barriers to overcome.
    • Whole System Design
      Module LeaderDr Fiona Charnley - Lecturer in Sust Product & Service Desig

      This module aims to introduce students to strategies and tools that enable integrated sustainable product development to take place. In particular to gain experience of the tools and techniques used to guide designers responding to the requirements for more sustainable development of products, organisational processes and urban environments. Delivering environmental improvements in products requires organisations to take a longer term integrated view of their product and service policies.

      • A framework of ecodesign: history and definitions
      • Strategies and drivers for the integration of environmental considerations in product and process development
      • Lifecycle (systems) thinking; tools and techniques for environmental improvement; integrated product and service perspectives toward sustainability;
      • Frameworks for eco-innovation; resource productivity and factor 10
      • Product - service - systems (PSS); design, society and ethics; practical examples of PSS design activity
      • Principles and practice of eco-design: material selection, energy consumption, design for disassembly, material recovery, reuse, repair and recyclability
      • Case studies demonstrating the adoption of a holistic approach to more innovative and sustainable solutions.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

      • Identify the design trade-offs and demonstrate a knowledge of methods to address the more sustainable development of new products
      • Critically evaluate the definitions and scope of design for sustainability from different technical, environmental and social perspectives
      • Explain the methods used, trade-offs considered and significance of using life-cycle techniques for the appraisal of product and process development options
      • Explore and synthesise concepts of design responsibility and the ethical agenda of designing for society
      • Develop a systemic understanding of the link between design activity, environment and society and the concept of  ‘product service systems’ as a framework for organisational activity
      • Demonstrate an understanding of case studies from across design disciplines that have adopted a holistic approach to the design of more innovative and sustainable solutions.
    • Technology, Environment and Society
      Module LeaderDr Philip Longhurst - Senior Lecturer in Environmental Technology

      While technological change is seen as the root cause of many environmental problems, it is simultaneously viewed as the means of solving such problems. This module explores technological change as part of positive sum strategies put forward by ecological modernisers. Theories of technological change are reviewed such as evolutionary, path dependent and long wave and used to formulate technology policy to achieve transition to a low carbon economy.

      • Ecological Modernisation, definition, key aspects, objectives and methodology
      • Development of associated policy frameworks, market failure, the role of governments, policies and mechanisms to address this
      • Innovation: Technology Development, transfer, adoption and diffusion
      • Innovation and sustainability, utility which process offers in this context, drivers and barriers
      • Integrated Sustainable Technology Assessment
      • Clusters and the development of sustainable technologies: Renewable energy.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

      • Understand Ecological Modernisation and key aspects and challenges of its application
      • Identify and understand theories of technological change, eg. linear, induced, pathdendent, evolutionary
      • Appreciate the role of technlogical change in economic development, environmental protection and transitions to ecological modernisation
      • Understand the role of technological change in achieving transition to a low carbon economy
      • Identify technology policy to stimulate transitions, eg. to a low carbon economy.
    • Programme and Project Management

      To introduce concepts and methodologies of project and programme management in the implementation of enterprise systems.

      • Project and Programme Management
      • PM Tools and Techniques
      • IT Project Management
      • An introduction to Prince 2
      • An introduction to Managing Successful Programmes
      • Project Complexity and Risk
      • Project Management simulation
      • IT Project Readiness
      • Organisation and People issues.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

      • Understand the nature of project and programme management
      • Appreciate the recognised approaches to project and programme management
      • Understand project complexity and risk
      • Understand characteristics of IT projects
      • Appreciate the dynamics of project execution. Understand the basic concepts of project and programme management
      • Understand the tools and techniques required to manage a successful project implementation
      • Understand common approaches to project and programme management
      • Understand the characteristics of IT projects
      • Explain the issues surrounding the management of risk
      • Appreciate the complexity in project execution.
  • Assessment

    Taught modules 40% Group projects* 20% Individual research project 40%

  • Start date, duration and location

    Start date: Full-time: October, part-time: throughout the year

    Duration: One year full-time, two to five years part-time

    Teaching location: Cranfield

  • Overview

    There are numerous benefits associated with undertaking a postgraduate programme of study within the Manufacturing and Materials Department at Cranfield University. These include:

    • study in a postgraduate-only environment where Masters' graduates often go on to secure positions in full-time employment in their chosen field, or undertake academic research
    • receive instruction from leading academics as well as industrial practitioners
    • dedicated support for off-campus learners including extensive information resources managed by Cranfield University's library
    • consultancy to companies supporting their employees on part-time programmes, in relation to individual projects.
  • Informed by industry

    Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. These include:

    • BRE
    • Viadynamics
    • Aspire Measurements Ltd
    • Welding Alloys Ltd
    • Creative Industries KTN
    • The Partners
    • LA Design
    • Transport for London
    • SAB Miller
    • Nokia
    • IBM
    • BSKYB

    Students who have excelled have their performances recognised through course awards. The awards are provided by high profile organisations and individuals, and are often sponsored by our industrial partners. Awards are presented on Graduation Day. View the 2014 Prize Winners booklet.

  • Your teaching team

    You will be taught by a wide range of subject specialists at Cranfield, and practitioners from industry, who draw on their research expertise and industrial experience to provide a stimulating learning experience.

  • Facilities and resources

    The School of Applied Sciences operates facilities and associated equipment which are often unique to Cranfield. Students on the Design and Innovation for Sustainability course benefit from this infrastructure. Furthermore, with Cranfield being exclusively postgraduate and having one of the best staff-to-student ratios, students on the programme have the 'space' to think creatively and to share their ideas with fellow students and academic colleagues.

  • Entry Requirements

    Candidates must possess, or be expected to achieve, a First or Second class UK Honours degree in a relevant science, engineering or related discipline, or the international equivalent of these UK qualifications. Other relevant qualifications, together with significant experience, may be considered.

    English language

    If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification.  The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

    IELTS - 6.5

    TOEFL - 92 (Important: this test is not currently accepted by the UK Home Office for Tier 4 (General) visa applications)

    TOEIC - 800 (Important: this test is not currently accepted by the UK Home Office for Tier 4 (General) visa applications)

    Pearson PTE Academic - 65

    Cambridge English: Advanced - C

    Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

    In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test.  We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score if too low.

    We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

    Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa will also need to meet the UKBA Tier 4 General Visa English language requirements.  The UK Home Office are not currently accepting TOEFL or TOEIC tests for Tier 4 (General) visa applications. Other restrictions from the UK Home Office may apply from time to time and we will advise applicants of these restrictions where appropriate.

  • Fees

    Home/EU student

    MDes Full-time - £4,950


    The annual registration fee is quoted above. An additional fee of £1,080 per module is also payable.

    MDes Part-time - £1,280 *

    PgDip Full-time - £5,000

    PgDip Part-time - £1,070 *

    PgCert Full-time - £2,500

    PgCert Part-time - £1,070 *

    Overseas student

    MDes Full-time - £16,250

    MDes Part-time - £8,500

    PgDip Full-time - £12,000

    PgDip Part-time - £6,250

    PgCert Full-time - £6,000

    PgCert Part-time - £4,500

    Fee notes:

    • Fees are payable annually for each year of study unless otherwise indicated.
    • The fees outlined here apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2014 and 31 July 2015 and the University reserves the right to amend fees without notice.
    • All students pay the annual tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
    • Additional fees for extensions to registration may be charged.
    • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) pay international fees.
  • Funding

    Funding opportunities exist, including industrial sponsorship, School bursaries and a number of general external schemes.  For the majority of part-time students sponsorship is organised by their employers. We recommend you discuss this with your company in the first instance.

  • Application process

    Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at that time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.

  • Career opportunities

    Successful students secure positions where knowledge, and experience of design, innovation, sustainability and management are essential attributes to engaging in new and emergent agendas. The course provides essential attributes in reframing and expanding the ways individuals and organisations think about sustainability through a design-led approach.

    The primary focus of Centre for Competitive Creative Design is embedding state-of-the-art design-led innovation practice, developed through research and industry collaboration, within business and education to improve commercial performance and develop future innovation leaders.